A Brief History of Verdi…

Verdi came into existence in 1868 when the Central Pacific Railroad tracks reached its site ten miles west of the future town of Reno. Charles Crocker, of the railroad, pulled a slip of paper from a hat and read the name of Guiseppe Verdi, the famous Italian composer… and so the town was named.

Verdi was then quickly populated by people from the nearby lumber and teamster camp of Crystal Peak who deserted their town when it became apparent that the railroad was going to bypass them by nearly two miles.

Things changed with the coming of the high iron (Railroad). The Henness Pass road between Virginia City and California dried up, and the hundreds of people along the route who made part of their living catering to passersby and the voluminous freight traffic dwindled away. the lumbering activities of Crystal Peak, which had hit a crescendo while the railhead was building down the Truckee canyon, passed across the river to Verdi, where sawmills, planing mills, and shingle mills began turning out the trainloads of lumber needed by the burgeoning city of Virginia City.

In addition to timber and a little later in time, Verdi became an important outlet for the ice industry, which thrived at the numerous ponds which were built along the railroad between Verdi and Truckee. Boca derived its first significance as part of the chain of ice centers in this area.

Although neither Verdi nor Crystal Peak ever had a newspaper (and this is the days when an entire printing plant would fit in the back of a spring wagon), the well-known newspaperman, John K. Lovejoy, settled here on a small farm after he had abandoned his newspaper career. He was the first Justice of the Peace for Crystal Peak and Verdi, and of such an eccentric temperament that the local Washoe City and later Reno papers were continually recounting his exploits.

The lumber industry, manned almost entirely by French Canadians who had moved west through the lumber fields of Michigan and Wisconsin, was eventually built into a small empire by Oliver Lonkey and associates, who had the cream of the dense timber crop of the early Sierras to harvest. Other names such as Frandsen, Hamlin, Hunken, Katz, Meacham, and Mortensen mingled with earlier settlers O’Neil, Bull and Pepper, Menke, Bates, and Foulks. Of later prominence were the Christensens, Coes, O’Connors, Pownings, Jackmans, and Swansons.

Although the lumber resources of the area were destined to wane with the cutting of the virgin forests, the nemesis of Verdi was the constant threat of fire. Three times in its history, the town was burned out. Each time the mills were rebuilt, but after the last fire in 1927, there was little future to lumbering that putting up another mill was an empty gesture and the structure wasn’t even boarded over. For a time it stood above the old mill pond like a gaunt skeleton of things past, equipped with inferior saws and cutting poor timber. Then it was gone.

In subsequent years. Verdi became something of a commuter town, with most of its people working in Reno or for Reno-based activities, such as the power and telephone companies.